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Free, fast, four-click PDF creation with doPDF

September 7, 2008

Converting your documents to PDF used to be painful, expensive, or both.

But frequently, you will want to use PDF. PDF documents display correctly regardless of hardware, software or operating system. Anything that can be printed will display exactly as intended. PDF files display properly and consistently from browsers - what web page can say the same?

PDF files often take up less space than their source files, and do not require that the viewer has a copy of the application that created the file. PDF files cannot be altered accidentally. It is the ideal medium for a 'final' document.

Finally, Adobe Viewer is free for all software platforms, and typically already installed.

Unfortunately, Adobe Acrobat, used to create PDF files, is not free. It does the job, no questions. But it's pricey: regular Acrobat starts at $299 U.S. And while it's capable, and faster than previous versions, for simple document conversion, better is now available for free.

Mind you, not all free PDF convertors are equal. Many won't incorporate the fonts you've used. Others incorporate nag screens, or watermarking that is disabled only in the not-so-free upgrade versions. Still others do not allow you to specify the page size. Others are slow or buggy or require third-party GhostScript, which can be tricky to install and configure, and sometimes just plain doesn't work.

doPDF, by Softland, at www.dopdf.com, is free, for personal or commercial use.

Installation is simple; the installation defaults are appropriate for the typical English-language user.

To use it - from any software, choose Print. Select doPDF as your printer. Click Print, then OK. Done. Quickly done - dopdf is fast, and uses very little of your CPU cycles.

Output is clean: default settings produce high-quality but small-in-size files, ideal for web-site downloads or e-mail documents. The original fonts are embedded into the document, so it will display the same to all viewers, regardless of whether they have that font installed.

Some customization is possible, as well. When you select doPDF as printer, click on Preferences. This allows you to print to a pre-defined page size:

doPDF PDF creation, specify page size

Or, alternately, you can specify a custom page size. Print in Landscape mode, or set a higher PDF resolution (i.e., to do incorporated graphics justice), or scale the PDF as smaller or larger than the source document.

Customize doPDF PDF file conversion: custom page sizes, resolutions, and scaling

In a welcome recognition that not all users are equally PDF- and computer-savvy, the good folks at dopdf.com even provide a how-to video on their landing page. Kudos! Would that other developers were as customer-friendly.

Downsides to this program? It won't create fillable PDF forms. It won't incorporate hyperlinks as hyperlinks. You can't password-protect it. You can't incorporate watermarks other than those that are part of the source file. You can't use it as a network printer. No compression; no bookmarks; no PDF creation profiles.

For those that require the latter, you could try novaPDF, also by Softland. Though this program also omits fillable PDF forms, it offers all of the other features. The multi-user network edition comes at a fraction of a single copy of Acrobat.

In summary, what a great little program. Easy, fast, well-coded, very user-friendly. What it aspires to do, it does extremely well.

Ars Informatica Rating: 9/10.

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